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Names for Roman Dogs

What did the ancient Romans name their four-legged best friends? Lucius Iunius Moderatus Columella gives us a few recommended names in the section of his work on agriculture dealing with the rearing and training of dogs. Other likely sources used by the ancient Romans for dog names may have come from literature, in much the same way that people today draw on literature for naming their dogs.

Just as many a slave with a Greek name might be found in an ancient Roman household (with Greek names either originally belonging to the slaves or names fancifully taken from history and legend and bestowed by the masters), the Romans appeared also to have taken a shine to Greek names for their dogs, as illustrated by Columella. Perhaps they thought these Greek names sounded classier?

Presented here is a list of dog names in both Greek and Latin, as recorded by various Roman writers. Each name is followed by gender, meaning, cited source, and a brief, descriptive quote from that source.

Aëllo. f. "Whirlwind". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...fleet...

Agre. f. "Hunter". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...keen-scented...

Alce or Alke. f. "Might; Valor". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Also, a recommended dog name in Columella’s On Agriculture.

Argiodus. m. "White-tooth". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...from a Cretan father and a Spartan mother...

Asbolos. m. "Soot". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...black...

Canache. f. "Gnasher". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Celer. m. "Speedy". A recommended dog name in Columella’s On Agriculture.

Cerva. f. "Hind". A recommended dog name in Columella’s On Agriculture.

Craugis. f. "Yapper". The puppy of a lonely wife, who claims the absent husband’s share of the marital bed in Propertius’ Elegies. Even the fretful whimper of my puppy Craugis is pleasant to my ears; she claims for herself your side in our bed.

Cyprius. m. "Cyprian". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...[Lycisce's] brother...

Dorceus. m. "Gazelle". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...Arcadian...

Dromas. m. "Runner". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Ferox. m. "Savage". A recommended dog name in Columella’s On Agriculture.

"Dogs should be called by names which are not very long, so that each may obey more quickly when he is called, but they should not have shorter names than those which are pronounced in two syllables..." -- Columella.

Harpalos. m. "Grasper". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...with a white spot in the middle of his black forehead...

Harpyia. f. "Seizer". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...with her two pups...

Hylactor. m. "Barker". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...shrill-tongued...

Hylaeus. m. "Sylvan". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...savage...but lately ripped up by a boar...

Hyrcanus. m. "From Hyrcania" (a region in ancient northern Persia, possibly meaning "land of the wolves"). Mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History to illustrate the faithfulness of dogs. ...upon the funeral pile of King Lysimachus being lighted, threw itself into the flames...

Ichnobates. m. "Trail-follower". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...keen-scented...baying loud on the trail...a Cretan dog.

Issa. f. "Her Little Ladyship". An adored pup mentioned in one of Martial’s epigrams (Book I, 109). ...naughtier than Catullus' sparrow...more winning than any girl...If she whines, you will think she's talking...

Labros. m. "Fury". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...from a Cretan father and a Spartan mother...

Lachne. f. "Shaggy". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...shaggy...

Lacon or Lakon. m. "Spartan". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...renowned for strength... Also, a recommended dog name in Columella’s On Agriculture.

Ladon. m."Catcher". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Sicyonian...thin in the flanks...

Laelaps. m. "Hurricane". A famous -- and relentless -- hunting hound in Ovid's Metamorphoses, originally a gift of the gods. She gave me...a wonderful hound which her own Cynthia had given, and said as she gave: "He will surpass all other hounds in speed."...No spear is swifter than he, nor leaden bullets thrown by a whirled sling, or the light reed shot from a Gortynian bow. Also, the name of one of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Leucon. m. "White". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...white-haired...

Lupa. f. "She-wolf". A recommended dog name in Columella’s On Agriculture.

Lycisce. f. "Wolf". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...swift...

Lydia. f. "From Lydia" (a region on the west coast of Asia Minor). A hunting hound and pet eulogized in one of Martial’s epigrams (Book XI, 69). Reared among the trainers of the Amphitheater, a huntress, fierce in the woods, gentle in the house.

Margarita. f. "Pearl". From an ancient epitaph to a dog, cited in Abbott’s work. ...a great white hunting dog...who coursed through trackless forests... Also a puppy mentioned in Petronius' Satyricon, who gamely attacks a much larger dog. ...an unnaturally obese black puppy...

Melampus. m. "Black-foot". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...a Spartan.

Melanchaetes. m. "Black-hair". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Melaneus. m. "Black". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Myia. f. "Fly" (the insect, a name perhaps given to a very small and active dog). From an ancient epitaph to a dog, cited in Abbott’s work. ...the little Gallic dog, barked fiercely if she found a rival lying in her mistress's lap.

Nape. f. "Glen". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...the wolf-dog...

Nebrophonos. m. "Fawn-killer". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...staunch...

Oresitrophos. m. "Mountaineer". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Oribasos. m. "Mountain-ranger". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...Arcadian...

Pamphagos or Pamphagus. m. "Voracious". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...Arcadian...

Patricus. m. "Noble". From an ancient epitaph to a dog, cited in Abbott’s work. ...an Italian dog, at Salernum..."My eyes were wet with tears, our dear little dog...In thy qualities, sagacious thou wert like a human being."

Perseus. m. The name of the dog of Aemilia Tertia, daughter of the 2nd century BCE Roman consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus. Legend has it that when Aemilia's father inquired as to why his daughter was in tears, she told him that "Perseus" (her dog) had just died. Because her father had just been given command of the Macedonian war against King Perseus, he took this as an omen of forthcoming success. The name "Perseus" is believed to be derived from the Greek word pertho, meaning "to destroy".

Poemenis. f. "Shepherd". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...the trusty shepherd...

Pterelas. m. "Winged". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...the swift of foot...

Pyrrhus. m. "Fire; Flame-colored". A dog mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History to illustrate the faithfulness of dogs. ...the dog of the tyrant Gelon...

"Dogs...are the only animals that will answer to their names, and recognize the voices of the family." -- Pliny the Elder

Rome. f. "Strength". A recommended dog name in Columella’s On Agriculture.

Scylax or Skylax. m. "Puppy". In Petronius' Satyricon, the master Trimalchio claims that no one in his house loves him better than Scylax. ..."the guardian of the house and the slaves"...an enormous dog on a chain... Also a recommended dog name in Columella’s On Agriculture.

Spoude. f. "Zeal". A recommended dog name in Columella’s On Agriculture.

Sticte. f. "Spot". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Theridamas. m. "Beast-killer". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Theron. m. "Hunter". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. ...fierce...

Thoos. m. "Swift". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Tigris. m. or f. "Tiger; Tigress". One of Actaeon's hounds in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Also, a recommended dog name in Columella’s On Agriculture.

This article was written by forum member Nephele

References:
Abbott, Frank Frost. Society & Politics in Ancient Rome: Essays & Sketches. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909. pp. 187-188.
Columella. [Lucius Iunius Moderatus Columella, 4 BCE - ca 70 CE]. On Agriculture. Book VII. XII. 13. Tr. E.S. Forster and Edward H. Heffner. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, rev. ed. 1968. pp. 314-315.
Martial. [Marcus Valerius Martialis, 40 CE - ca 102 CE] Epigrams. Book I. 109. Tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993. pp. 124-125.
Martial. [Marcus Valerius Martialis, 40 CE - ca 102 CE]. Epigrams. Book XI. 69. Tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993. pp. 60-61.
Ovid. [Publius Ovidius Naso, 43 BCE - 17 CE] Metamorphoses. "Actaeon". Book III. 206-233. Tr. Frank Justus Miller and G.P. Goold. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 3rd ed. 1977. pp. 138-141. Also "Cephalus and Procris". Book VII. 753-793. pp. 394-397.
Petronius. [Gaius or Titus Petronius Arbiter, ca 27 CE - 66 CE] Satyricon. 64. Tr. Michael Heseltine, rev. by E.H. Warmington. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, rev. ed. 1969, reprinted with corrections 1987. pp. 142-145.
Pliny. [Gaius Plinius Secundus, 23 CE - 79 CE]. Natural History. Book VIII. LXI. 143-144. Tr. H. Rackham. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2nd ed. 1983. pp. 100-101.
Propertius. [Sextus Propertius, 50 BCE - ca 2 BCE] Elegies. Book IV. 3. "To a Husband at the Wars." Tr. G.P. Goold. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, rev. ed. 1999. pp. 330-331.
Plutarch. [Mestrius Plutarchus, 46 CE - 120 CE] Aemilius Paulus. Tr. by John Dryden. The Internet Classics Archive at http://classics.mit.edu//Plutarch/paulus.html

Did you know?

There was no direct Roman equivalent of "sir" or "madam".

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Names for Roman Dogs - Related Topic: Roman Literature


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